No. Branford taps Schoonmaker as schools chief

Friday, October 10, 2008 7:38 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — The Board of Education has picked Scott Schoonmaker, currently the principal of Old Saybrook High School, as its top choice to replace departing Superintendent Robert Wolfe.

After a nationwide search over the past two months, board members interviewed Schoonmaker and five other candidates this week and decided to “move Scott forward as our candidate of choice,” board Chairwoman Deborah Prunier said.

The board plans to hold a site visit in Old Saybrook next week and take a formal vote on Schoonmaker’s candidacy at a future meeting.

Wolfe announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, in May. Prunier said that Schoonmaker is scheduled to take over the position Jan. 1.

Schoonmaker could not be reached for comment. He has been principal of Old Saybrook High School for 11 years, according to a statement from the Board of Education. He also has served as the high school’s dean of students and taught at the middle-school and high-school level.

“We all felt that he had the same vision or visions that we currently have for the North Branford School District, and we would like to see that carried forward with his creativeness and innovativeness,” Prunier said. In the statement, she pointed to features like new Old Saybrook graduation requirements that include community service and a senior project, the introduction of a pre-engineering program and his role in the high school’s annual Walk to Cure Cancer as assets that recommended Schoonmaker.

Prunier added that the board discussed the fact that Schoonmaker has not served as a superintendent in the past, but decided that he was fully qualified.

“He’s done an internship for a superintendency, he comes from a district similar to ours, and has spent a good deal of time working with the Old Saybrook superintendent to ready him for the next step of his career,” she said.

The district did not advertise for the position with a particular salary range, but the current superintendent earns more than $130,000. The North Branford School District serves about 2,500 students.

Eliza Holcomb, a consultant the board hired to help with the search process, said that the district received nearly 20 applications.

“We had a very strong applicant pool,” Holcomb said. “Scott was identified as a finalist, and now the board needs to conclude its work in a site visit and reference-checking.”

Prior to the interviews, Holcomb met with and heard from North Branford residents to compile a “leadership profile” of what they were looking for in a new superintendent.

Prunier said she is not sure if the board will be able to vote on Schoonmaker’s contract at its Thursday meeting, but that it could set a special meeting later in October for the topic.

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